St. Louis Blues Backup Goaltender: Options For The Future

Mar 11, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton (40) defends the net against the New York Islanders during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton (40) defends the net against the New York Islanders during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues have their goaltending situation figured out as far as who the starter will be. The person filling in now and then might end up changing.

The St. Louis Blues know who their goaltender is. Jake Allen has been the goaltender of the future ever since he filled in for 15 games in 2012-13.

He might have been on the team’s radar even before that. However, he filled in valiantly for a 9-4 record while the Blues were ravaged by injury and poor play in net.

Allen has had his ups and downs, but the 2016 playoffs have shown he is more than capable of carrying a team. The Blues have given him little support offensively and he still has a .936 save percentage and 2.06 goals against with game still yet to play.

Allen has proven himself worthy of being the man and has even won over many of the holdovers from the previous netminder. The man named Moose had a very devout following, but Allen shows no signs of slowing down.

While the Blues still have games to play though, the future cannot be overlooked. Circumstances beyond the team’s control force them to have options when it comes to who will backup Allen next year and in the future.

Carter Hutton has been a fine backup. Even though he is under contract, he might not be on the Blues next season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at all the options for a backup goaltender for the St. Louis Blues.

Carter Hutton

In a perfect world, Carter Hutton remains with the Blues and the team can focus on changes elsewhere. It would be nice for multiple reasons if this were to happen.

First and foremost, the Blues get to keep a quality goaltender. Hutton only saw action in 30 games, but compiled a record of 13-8-2 in 21 starts.

His .918 save percentage was nothing to sneeze at, especially considering his games came few and far between. His 2.39 goals per game doesn’t sound great, but like Allen it was sky high during the winter and he turned things around as well.

The Blues have some good players waiting in the wings in the minors, but there is no need to rush them if you don’t have to. Hutton is a solid goaltender.

With the exception of 2012-13, when he only played one game with Chicago, Hutton has never had a save percentage below .902. He’s had a shutout in every season he’s played in beyond that year as well and kept his goals against at respectable levels.

Hutton is actually perfect for what the Blues need right now. Allen is stabilizing as the starter, so all the team needs is someone to play 30 games or so and fill in during injuries.

People might be asking why there would even be any consideration beyond Hutton. Las Vegas is the answer.

While nothing substantial, there are rumors going around that Hutton might be an attractive option for the Golden Knights. He has a reasonable contract that would allow Vegas to either re-sign him or bring in someone else after their inaugural year.

Jordan Binnington

This one is both seems strange and also makes the most sense. Jordan Binnington is a talented guy, but his future is rather cloudy.

Though he has been on the Blues radar for years, he has yet to play a full NHL game. Outside of a handful of preseason appearances, he has 13 minutes of NHL experience.

Binngington came in for a relief appearance in 2015-16 and allowed one goal on four shots. Not exactly the start of a bright career, but not enough to judge the guy off of either.

Binnington is the easy choice simply because he is already in the system. He also seems destined to be a backup.

Jan 14, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) guards the net in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Scottrade Center. The Carolina Hurricanes defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) guards the net in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Scottrade Center. The Carolina Hurricanes defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

His numbers have never been bad, but they have never been great. He’s always been behind someone as well.

With the Rivermen and then the Chicago Wolves, he had to bide his time behind Allen. Then, when it looked like he was getting more time, he got injured and Pheonix Copley and then Ville Husso assumed the starting role.

While you feel for Binnington as a player, reality is reality. It makes sense again from a team perspective.

If you have to make a change, then Binnington poses no threat. He’s not going to unseat Allen but has proven capable of filling in when needed at the AHL level.

The downfall of Binnington is there is no way to tell how he will hold up against NHL talent. Allen might not be Carey Price, but you don’t want a Montreal situation where any injury to Allen is the end of the Blues season.

It would be a role of the dice, but it could have a decent payoff.

Ville Husso

This one is an incredibly intriguing option. Husso could be the goaltender of the future for the Blues if anything goes south for Allen.

That presents problems for him being a backup. We’ll get into that in just a moment.

In terms of promise, it seemed like it would be a slow start for Husso. When Copley and Binnington grabbed the reigns in the AHL, the Blues sent Husso to the ECHL for seasoning.

That did not have the effect they wanted. The Missouri Mavericks, under no true affiliation to the Blues, did not play Husso enough for him to get into a groove.

Between the start of the season and the winter, Husso only saw 13 games of action. His stats in the ECHL were less than stellar at .910 and 3.23.

When the Blues had had enough, they rolled the dice with a three man rotation in the AHL. Things worked out between injury and trades and Husso picked up some serious steam.

In 22 games at the highest minor league level, the Finnish netminder improved every statistical category. He had a .920 save percentage and 2.37 goals against.

He has started all six games for the Chicago Wolves in their playoff run to this point. His stats are just as quality in those meaningful games at .923 and 2.46.

The problem with moving Husso up is he’s not going to keep developing. Even if he gets 30 games at the NHL level, they come so sporadically that it becomes hard to get into a groove.

Husso has the most talent right this moment, but it might be better to let him be the man in the AHL. You could always call him up if there was any injury, which seems to always happen with the Blues.

Luke Opilka or Evan Fitzpatrick

I put these two guys together, not because they have nothing to separate themselves, but more because they have around the same chance – next to zero.

Both of these guys are highly regarded by the Blues brass, but they just don’t have enough experience to jump to the NHL. Even if it was to be a backup, neither of these guys have experience at the professional level yet.

Both have high ceilings. Luke Opilka was very highly touted until his injury. You could tell it affected him though as he had a 3.58 goals against and .889 save percentage for the Kitchener Rangers.

Fitzpatrick was given huge praise when drafted. He was clearly the most raw goaltender in prospect camp though and that included the guys there on tryout contracts.

Like Opilka, Evan Fitzpatrick had a bit of a challenging season. .899 and 3.46 for Sherbrooke of the QMJHL was not exactly what he was hoping for.

These guys might have bright futures ahead of them and you can never tell what a team has in mind. It is an extremely outside possibility, but you can’t say it is 0%.

These two need to focus on getting better and not have the pressure to perform at the highest level yet.

Someone else

This is somewhat of the joker in the deck. We all were a bit surprised when the team brought in Hutton instead of letting Copley or Binnington take over the backup spot.

It all worked out for the best. So, the Blues could very well look outside of the franchise and its prospects for another year. Here are some of the free agents coming up that are backup level and what they made in 2016-18.

Anders Nilsson ($1 million)
Nilsson was already on the Blues briefly in 2015-16. There were some disappointed that the Blues did not bring him back, especially since the team paid Hutton more money.

2016-17 was not his finest year ever, but 10-10-4 is not too bad when playing for one of the worst teams in the league. Nilsson’s .923 and 2.67 goals against were a lot on him, so going back to the big Swede might not be a bad idea.

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Mike Condon ($575,000)
Condon briefly played with a team associated with St. Louis. He was with the Bandits way back in junior hockey, but never actually in St. Louis. He played there when they were in Texarkana.

Still, has very respectable numbers. He’s never played fewer than 40 games, so he’s durable enough for a backup.

He also has a .908 career save percentage and a 2.61 goals against. Those numbers might be better if he was not filling in for Price and the crumbling Canadiens in 2015-16.

Peter Budaj ($600,000)
Budaj is aging and on the surface, not an intriguing prospect to be in the Blues goal. It cannot be ignored that he singlehandedly kept the Los Angeles Kings in the playoff hunt.

He was stabbed in the back by the team once Jonathan Quick got healthy though. Traded away to acquire Ben Bishop, who did not pan out the way the Kings hoped, Budaj was a forgotten man.

The problem with Budaj is you can’t tell what you’ll get. He won 27 games with the Kings, but that is the most of his career. At 34, can you expect much more of that?

Budaj would be a bridge for a year, maybe two at most until one of your AHL guys is truly ready.

Curtis McElhinney ($800,000)
McElhinny might be a good pickup just so the Blues did not have to face him any more. While his numbers are not bad, he’s one of those guys that always bites St. Louis in the butt.

The Blues have made a history out of making backups look like all-stars and McElhinney was one of those guys.

He’s got a career goals against under 3.00, which is important. He would not be my first or second choice, but if the price is right maybe it would be fine.

Keith Kinkaid ($725,000)
Kinkaid would be a steal on multiple levels. He comes cheap, even if you give him a raise from his current salary.

He’s also a damn good goaltender when he’s on his game. He has a St. Louis connection as well.

Kinkaid won 30 games and led the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL to a championship in 2008-09. He had a sub-2.00 goals against that year and 1.15 GAA in the playoffs.

His career NHL numbers aren’t bad either. .912 and 2.68 is not bad for a guy who sees the net with less regularity than he might with the Blues. On top of that, he was playing for a very diminished New Jersey team.

Reuniting with Martin Broduer might be good for him as well. Brodeur probably was not as interested in passing knowledge when he was trying to win games. Now that it is part of his duties, maybe it would spring Kinkaid on to even more.

Philipp Grubauer ($750,000)
Grubauer is pretty much like the rest. Nothing special, but serviceable.

His numbers won’t wow anyone and he likely won’t steal you too many games the way Hutton did. However, he has had better than the league average in quality starts twice in his three full seasons.

On the negative side, he has never appeared in more than 24 games.


As said, in a perfect world, the Blues keep Hutton and all is as it is for another season.

If the Blues don’t luck out and Vegas takes him with house money, so to speak, Binnington, Kinkaid or Nilsson would be my choice.

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There is also the beyond mental chance of bringing back Jaroslav Halak. There were rumors of picking him up at the trade deadline for reasons that are beyond me.

Even as president of the Halak fan-club back in the day, I would not support that. It would not be fair to him or the team.

It will be an interesting decision, if and when it comes. Hopefully we don’t have to worry about that for a while yet though.